Address to Mourning Communicants

"Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?" (Job 12:9)

God has been addressing a twofold voice today to those who have gathered at His Holy Table.

To some, He has been speaking in prosperity. New gourds have been given—new fountains of blessing opened. The dreaded cloud, big with disaster, has passed. The financial loss has been compensated. The shaft of death has been turned aside—the dear one hovering on the confines of the dark valley has been restored. The chair in the family circle has not been emptied. You have been spared the dreadful word which falls on the heart like the crash of a descending avalanche.

To others—to you—He has been speaking by adversity; by crushed hopes and blighted joys—early and unlooked-for graves.

Afflicted one! if your sorrows are great, have you not had today vividly brought before you, in touching symbol, the memorial of sufferings, in comparison with which, your deepest and intensest are light indeed. In the contemplation of these, you have not only the revelation of the Heart of a loving, sympathizing Savior, but the pledge and assurance that the God who gave His Son would not, and could not, visit you with one needless pang, or put one unnecessary thorn into your wreath of woe. Be assured, it is for the spiritual good of His children that He sees fit, ever and anon, to put a scar, so to speak, on His people's most treasured earthly joys.

It is said in a striking passage of Isaiah—"The day of the Lord Almighty shall be upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures" (Isaiah 2:12, 16). Yes, on these "pleasant pictures" He deems it meet, at times, to stretch forth His hand, and sweep the portrayed vision of gladness away—He may have seen it was eclipsing and dimming His own likeness on the soul. You may remember the great Artist who painted the lofty ceiling of the Roman Basilica. High up on the giddy platform, his eye is on some 'pleasant picture,' on which he is just putting his finishing touches. Absorbed in the triumph of his genius, he has left his position, in order to obtain a broad, general view of the gigantic work. But he has forgotten his danger. He is stepping back, and yet farther back, to the edge of the scaffolding. A few inches more, and he will go reeling down to the marble pavement, a hundred feet beneath.

What can save him? It is a moment of thrilling suspense. Life is trembling in the balance—verily there is but a step between him and death. One who was assisting sees, at a glance, the imminent peril. With the speed of lightning, his determination is formed. On he dashes towards the work of the Master, and, with apparently presumptuous hand, plants a deep scar on the moist fresco. The Artist rushes forward to avert the blow. It was enough—all the other needed—It destroyed the painting, but it saved the more valued life. How often is this God's method of dealing! He sees us on the world's giddy eminences—going back, back, back, to certain ruin. He hastens to the rescue. He places a seemingly remorseless, destructive hand on our most cherished objects of pursuit—blurs and scars life's loveliest visions. He breaks our hearts, that He may save our souls! "The day of the Lord Almighty is on all pleasant pictures!"

Seek to honor Him by unmurmuring submission to His holy will. Let your chastisements, for the present not joyous but grievous, lead you to live nearer Heaven and nearer Him. So that, if, at some subsequent Communion season, you too should have your place vacant at the Sacred Feast, your name may, like that of one mourned today, be missed by your fellows, and never mentioned but with the sigh and the tear.

Ah, if this be a day on which we are compelled to take count of blanks in the flock—sheep, that were used to pasture with us, no longer to be found in the earthly fold; it is surely the most elevating of Communion thoughts—(the word 'Communion' has no more hallowed interpretation)—to behold them, with the eye of faith, up in yonder realms of bliss, fed by the living fountains of waters in the presence and love of the Heavenly Shepherd—their voices falling in soft music on our ear, and charming us to follow after!